Classrooms without borders
Online learning is hot these days, and Princeton Engineering faculty are at the leading edge of the trend.
Since the summer of 2012, Princeton University has been offering, on an experimental basis, free online classes through Coursera, an enterprise started by two Stanford professors. Massive online open courses (MOOCs) are a recent phenomenon but learners worldwide have had access to free content from Princeton Engineering lecture libraries and class websites for years. Some highlights and history:
Mung Chiang, Electrical Engineering
“Networks Illustrated: Principles Without Calculus” (Coursera)
“Networks: Friends, Money and Bytes” (Coursera)
A well-known researcher in the field of networks and the Arthur LeGrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering, Mung Chiang attributes his passion for offering free online courses to the importance education played for him in the journey from poverty in his native China to earning three degrees from Stanford.
Chiang’s take on Princeton’s online education venture? “This is living out the motto of this University. Education is the main service we can provide to all nations. But this is an ongoing experiment. We’ve got much more work to do in the science of learning in an asynchronous and online environment before we can realize the full potential of this new model of teaching and learning. At the heart of the pedagogical challenge is this question: Can teaching be both in massive scale and individually effective at the same time?”
Robert Stengel , Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Optimal Control and Estimation Robotics and Intelligent Systems
Aircraft Flight Dynamics Space System Design
Robert Stengel, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and a leading figure in the field of flight and director of the Program in Robotics and Intelligent Systems, has been offering online lecture slides and links to virtual reference books from his Princeton courses since 2007. His website receives about 2.5 million hits a year from around the world, most of them to download lecture slides, which he updates every year.
Robert Sedgewick, the William O. Baker *39 Professor in Computer Science, coauthor of best-selling introductory textbooks in computer science, notes that his classes have long had a global reach, thanks to innovative course-related materials he and Phillip Y. Goldman ’86 Senior Lecturer Kevin Wayne maintain online. In 2012, their websites had 1.5 million unique visitors. More than 250,000 people signed up for their Coursera classes during the first year. Sedgewick says the online video lecture system is a boon to Princeton undergraduates, more than half of whom – regardless of major -- take one of his and Wayne’s computer science courses. “It provides powerful tools for preceptors, who have more time for personal interaction with students,” Sedgewick said.
David Wentzlaff, Electrical Engineering
Computer Architecture (Coursera)
Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering David Wentzlaff teaches an advanced course on computer architecture that unlike many Coursera classes, which appeal to the novice, requires a serious foundation in electrical engineering. During his first offering, 3,300 students watched all of the videos -- more than 30 hours of lectures. Subsequently, Wentzlaff made the course content and lectures available outside of the actual class and now has about 30,000 active users. The Coursera class has benefited Princeton students in his on-campus Computer Architecture class, he said, by “battle-hardening” his teaching material and by making lecture videos available as supplementary material.
The School of Engineering has served up video lecture libraries on different topics for a half-dozen years. Current libraries:
A primer on the science of combustion from a summer school lecture program organized by Princeton’s Combustion Energy Frontier Research Center (CEFRC) and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
A collection of talks on skyscrapers sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Includes interviews with three giants in the field of structural engineering as well as a lecture by legendary teacher David Billington.
Engineering the Future
A different faculty member explores a different topic in each of these lectures. Topics range from cryptography to sustainable energy.